The Scottish music scene is as vibrant and healthy as ever. Emerging artists and new festivals are popping up everywhere, while huge international names continue to flock to stadiums and arenas. Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music thanks to its annual half a million gig-goers and Edinburgh’s legendary venues and creative arts festivals show off the capital’s cultural edge. It’s clear Scotland’s passion for live music runs deep, but it’s not always accessible for everyone.

Jump to accessible live music venues in Scotland.

Accessibility and live music

Music is accessible through the like of Spotify or iTunes, but not when it comes to listening to live music. Around the UK, many people with disabilities are struggling to gain access to music venues, according to recent reports.

The State of Access Report 2016 by Attitude is Everything revealed worrying findings. The organisation work with live music venues with the goal of improving the experiences of deaf and disabled audiences. The report uncovers the findings of in-depth research of over 100 music venues across the UK. It found that one third of venue and festival websites have no access information, and less than a fifth in the report had ‘good’ access information.

Extract from Attitude is Everything’s State of Access Report 2018

Their most recent report from 2018 also showed concerns. 80% of mystery shoppers reported problems with booking access and 73% felt discriminated against during booking. A large proportion (79%) were discouraged from purchasing tickets due to difficulty booking access, and one in ten contemplated legal action. These figures actually show improvement comparative to the findings of 2014, indicating a positive shift. But it remains clear that more needs to be done.

The way forward to accessible music venues in Scotland

Jacob Adams of Attitude is Everything believes that, as with the theatre industry, things will likely improve alongside technology. He also feels that a whole venue approach is crucial in making music venues in Scotland and the rest of the UK more accessible. Accessibility should be embedded in the venue’s policies and practices throughout, including training staff, programming, marketing and more.

If accessibility is just a side project with limited online information, people can’t find out about them and so the venue/company may as well as not do it.”

Jacob Adams, Attitude is Everything

Venues should also take a proactive approach, rather than simply responding to complaints. An article in The Guardian voices Chief Executive of the Bristol Music Trust, Louise Mitchell, who claims it’s “too often left to the disabled community to fight its corner”.

Though some venue struggle with changing the building structure – for example with listed buildings – there are still lots of ways venues can become more accessible. Those listed below are some of the ones making positive changes.

The list is compiled using recommendations from bloggers, Euan’s Guide reviews and those affiliated with accessibility organisations such as Attitude is Everything, Nimbus Disability and more.

Accessible music venues in Scotland

The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

The Queen's Hall is one of Scotland's accessible live music venues.

Once a Georgian church, The Queen’s Hall is a historic landmark in the Scottish capital. After being lovingly restored as a 900-capacity venue, it was officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 1979. Today, it hosts over 200 performances annually, including the resident Scottish Chamber Orchestra and renowned Edinburgh International Festival.

The accessibility information is easy to find on the venue’s website. It provides information on wheelchair access, guide dogs and assisted hearing facilities. Additionally, the venue has a Mobilift CX, which boosts access to performers with physical disabilities. The Queen’s Hall is also currently designing a video with Drake Music Scotland and downloadable pack for those with anxiety or Autism.

“Accessibility of The Queen’s Hall is important to us and is constantly under review. We have step-free access to the ground floor of the building for audiences, but are fairly unique in Scotland in having a Mobilift CX which gives artists wheelchair access to our stage. As well as for in-house shows, we’re able to offer this for hire, with many venues around the country doing so.

Our next goal is to persuade promoters of spoken word events to make these events accessible to the D/deaf and hard of hearing and to investigate how we make music more accessible to these groups. As a registered charity we have to raise money for each initiative so it takes time, but these are key goals for us to work towards.”

Emma Mortimore, Marketing Manager at The Queen’s Hall

Accessible features include:

  • Mobilift CX
  • Induction loop
  • Level access from street
  • Accessible toilet

The SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Exterior view of the SSE Hydro in Glasgow

The large arena lies in the Scottish Event Campus alongside the SEC Centre and SEC Armadillo. It’s one of Scotland’s most notable music venues for big names, as well as being one of the most accessible. From WWE Live to Celine Dion, the SSE Hydro is a popular place to watch all kinds of music and entertainment.

Over a million visitors head to the SSE Hydro each year, making it a landmark of the city. It holds up to 14, 300 across three floors. Its online access information states the venue is fully accessible on the first two floors, including accessible lifts and automated doors. There is also details as to the width of the fireproof elevator, ensuring all aspects are provided beforehand.

The Scottish music venue works alongside Attitude is Everything and Disabled Go to promote its accessibility. Visitors with Autism can find a sensory backpack service, and sunflower lanyards are available to make staff aware of any hidden disabilities without disrupting visitors’ experiences.

Accessible features include:

  • Changing Places toilet
  • Accessible lifts to first two floors
  • Sensory backpacks
  • Sunflower Lanyards
  • Accessible parking 
  • Interpreter services
  • Infra-red loop in various blocks
  • Accessible signage

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Live Music Venue Usher Hall in Edinburgh Scotland interior is accessible

Famous for its acoustics, the Usher Hall is an exquisite venue for showing all kinds of music. The building dates back to 1919, starting out as a concert hall for classical performers. It has since proven adaptable, hosting a variety of sports and political events over the years. Today, Usher Hall is under the ownership of the City of Edinburgh Council and is the home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The website importantly directs you to accessibility information from the footer on all pages. It is also AA compliant with W3C Web Content Accessibility guidelines 2,0, where it’s possible to adjust text sizes, images and alt texts. Usher Hall has generally high ratings on Euan’s Guide, ranking on average 4.4 out of 5 by users.

Accessible features include:

  • Accessible parking
  • Large print/audio format brochures available
  • Induction loop
  • Level access from street
  • Lift to all levels
  • Accessible toilet
  • Accessible website

O2 Academy, Glasgow

o2 Academy Glasgow is accessible

As a Grade B listed venue, the O2 Academy is part of the Academy Music Group scattered across the UK. Opening in 2003, the O2 Academy celebrated its launch with performances by Bryan Ferry, the Sugababes and Deacon Blue. Since then, more prolific acts have graced its stage, including The White Stripes, The Prodigy, Snoop Dogg, and local comedian Frankie Boyle.

The Academy Group work closely with Attitude is Everything and Nimbus Disability. This ensures that improvements can be made, despite challenges related to the age of the building. Staff also attend Disability Awareness training, which channels Jacob Adams’ whole venue approach to accessibility.

Visitors can use the Access Card, although this is not compulsory. On request, they can also receive material in Braille of large print too. While there is no parking at the O2 Academy, the website provides lots of details and links for accessible parking and travel. Additionally, their Island Bar has a split-hatch so to be of accessible height.

Accessible features include:

  • Large print/Braille brochures available
  • Disability Awareness-trained staff
  • Accept Access Card
  • Level access from street
  • Accessible toilet
  • Dedicated seating

SWG3, Glagow

Yard in SWG3, Glasgow

Whether it’s a corporate launch or a huge outdoor concert, the SWG3 delivers. It’s one of the most diverse venues in the country, comprising a range of entertaining shows and events. The SWG3 consists of different spaces, including the outdoor Yard, the intimate Poetry Club and the dynamic TV Studio – commonly used for club nights and live music.

Across the complex, there are accessible routes and accessible toilets to allow visitors access anywhere. However, they do state that some of the large yard events may have different challenges. For visitors who have accessible booking reference from SWG3, which can be obtained by registering with the venue, all tickets can be purchased online. This includes companions.

The Galvanizers, Yard and TV studio have accessible viewing platforms. SWG3 is a fairly new venue when it comes to gigs. Blogger Emma Muldoon, of Simply Emma, has been twice and noticed various improvements the second time. As a wheelchair user, Emma stated that the integration of viewing platforms made a huge difference to her second experience.

She also felt the venue had made conscious efforts to be more accessible and make improvements.

“Will we go back to SWG3? Yes, we will. It’s clear the venue is doing well providing disabled facilities. It’s also clear after speaking with the manager that they appreciate and understood our feedback after our first visit and really set out to make improvements. Venues need to be more open like this to make changes and improvements were needed.”

Emma Muldoon, Blogger. Read the full review on her blog post.

Accessible features include:

  • Viewing platform (some areas)
  • Level access
  • Accessible toilet
  • Dedicated seating/areas
  • Accessible parking (available for most events)

P&J Live, Aberdeen

P&J Live, Aberdeen's accessible music venue

Following a huge multi-million development, P&J Live is one of the newest additions to Scotland’s exciting music scene. It replaced the AECC, but continues to host a variety of events ranging from exhibitions to comedy and concerts.

As a state-of-the-art complex, P&J Live describes themselves as an ‘innovative venue designed for all’. It claims to be fully accessible comprising access to, accessible seating and accessible toilets on all levels. Visitors are invited to communicate needs to the venue so as to organise BSL interpretation, captioning or use of the hearing loop for events.

P&J Live’s website makes it easy to find information about accessibility, particularly in their downloadable accessible guide. Important details such as the location of accessible seating and medical requirements are clearly specified.

Accessible features include:

  • Level access
  • Changing Places toilet
  • Accessible toilets on all levels
  • Induction loop
  • Accessible parking 
  • Accessible viewing platform (standing events)
  • BSL interpretation and captioning available

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall interior

Hosting a medley of 250 musical events each year, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is one of the city’s top live music venues. Huge stars have played here, including BB King, Johnny Cash and Debbie Harry. Whether you enjoy jazz, pop, classical or world music, there’s something to cater to all tastes here.

The Hall is owned by the local city council and runs alongside City Halls and the Old Fruitmarket. According to their website, all venues are accessible. Visitors can reach the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall via the entrance on Killermont Street. All floors have accessible toilets and lifts, which are fitted with Braille and voice announcements.

The website reportedly meets the requirements of W3C WAI, WCAG 2,0 AA standards. This includes read out loud and BrowseAloud functions, and more. There’s also a virtual tour of the venue to feel at ease before visiting. This provides a good sense of the hall, and allows you to explore views of the stage from different spots.

Accessible features include:

  • Access to all levels
  • Accessible toilets on all levels
  • Sennheiser infrared system
  • Accessible parking 
  • Large print/Braille brochures and guides available
  • Virtual tour of hall

Perth Concert Hall

Perth Concert Hall is one of the few accessible live music venues in Scotland outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow

A stylish and elegant place to hear live music, Perth Concert Hall is a great evening out in the city. It has supreme acoustics, making it popular for visitors and performers alike. The year-round programme features a range of shows, including traditional Scottish music, new acts and international stars.

On site, visitors can also enjoy pre-concert dining or snacks at the Glassrooms Cafe. The venue sometimes offers special lunchtime concert tickets which discounts on soup and a sandwiches.

Beyond its great food and auditoria, Perth Concert Hall is also one of Scotland’s accessible live music venues.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy our venues, not just performances but as social spaces and for community activities. Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre have lifts to all levels, Induction Loops or Infra-Red Enhanced Hearing Systems, FM Headsets and staff who are happy to help. Where possible, we offer Audio Described and BSL Interpreted and relaxed performances.

We have recently introduced free-to-borrow sensory backpacks to help people with access needs feel comfortable in our venues and we have created walk-through videos of Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre so that our visitors know exactly what to expect when they come through the doors.”

Kath Clark, Head of Sales and Marketing at Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre

Accessible features include:

  • Access to all levels
  • Induction Loops
  • FM headsets
  • Infra-Red enhanced hearing system
  • Walkthrough videos
  • Touch tours
  • Audio-described performances
  • BSL performances
  • Relaxed performances
  • Accessible parking 
  • Audio brochure available
  • Sensory backpacks

Ironworks, Inverness

Ironworks in Inverness claims to be wheelchair friendly.

The intimate gig space holds a capacity of 1,000. It’s one of the largest across the Highlands, bringing popular artists to nothern Scotland. Primal Scream, Bastille, Years & Years, Morrissey and Mumford & Sons are just some of the artists who have rocked its stage since opening in 2006. Each year, Ironworks hosts 150 events, which are mostly made up of live music with some comedy and sport.

Outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh, it’s often hard to find gig spaces with information on accessibility. However, Ironworks clearly states its commitment to making the venue accessible for wheelchair users. It boasts street level access, automatic doors and wheelchair-accessible toilets, where there are no steps in the venue.

Furthermore, reviews on Euan’s Guide have praised the staff at Ironworks for being helpful and aware of disability issues.

Accessible features include:

  • Access to all floors
  • Accessible parking

Òran Mór, Glasgow

Oran Mor is one of Glasgow's accessible places to hear live music.

Òran Mór is a former church that rests in Glasgow’s West End, surrounded by creativity and art. It’s name suitably translates from Gaelic as the ‘great melody of life’ or ‘big song’. Visitors can find everything from regular comedy, theatre and gigs to a cocktail and champagne haven on weekends. Beyond its two bars, Òran Mór also offers dining at its two restaurants, making it a one-stop shop for entertainment and a great night out.

Being accessible and inclusive lies at the core of Scotland’s diverse bar and live music venue.

“Òran Mór was created with our founding concept of ‘Arts for All – All Year Round’ at its heart. As such, we are committed to ensuring an open and accessible environment for everyone.”

Jo Wright, Head of Events, Sales & Marketing at Òran Mór

It has level access from the street, as well as lift access to the auditorium, and bars. There are also three accessible toilets across the floors.

Accessible features include:

  • Level access to all floors
  • Accessible toilets

To find live music events near you, head to TickX’s gigs page.